Eclectic Reader: Read like a writer

Two new poems in Jerry Jazz Musician

Coltrane stains the air / with dusky shadows / quivering across the bay

A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2021 Edition

Thank you Joe Maita for publishing “Don’t Ask this of Me” and “Passage Dreaming” in the Winter 2021 collection of jazz poems. These two pieces are in the company of some exceptional writing. Jazz aficionados will want to check out the Jerry Jazz Musician website for jazz photography, interviews, poetry and more.

DON’T ASK THIS OF ME

Coltrane stains the air
with dusky shadows
quivering across the bay
like words lost
between tenor-
haunted notes.

The waning moon sheds
a string of luminescent
pearls across dark water
each wavelet a silken shiver.

Burnished shiraz lingers on lips
bay-water laps ankles
voices hum with pining
under the sax’s spell.

Sound spills

                     on waves

                                     of breath.

Thoughts unravel
seeking
deep within cascading notes
          their flight?
               their poetry?

A fish breaches
its rupture creating circles
ever-widening
dives into hidden depths.

***

PASSAGE DREAMING

Rain cleanses city
     veils sky
softens colour
     sound.

Musical strains
     lift
praise through grey
     dawn.

Piano and tenor sax
     slip
into harp and flute
vibrate
with creation
                      chaos
light as a feather
                           falling
through time

notes
collect and break
apart

travel like a seeker’s
                                  heart
along a helix
                      of blue

spiral
          cascade
slip
       through clouds
                                like rain.

“DON’T ASK THIS OF ME” is a tribute to John Coltrane (1926-1967): jazz saxophonist and composer; renowned for experimental music and for introducing a movement toward spiritual transcendence in jazz.

“PASSAGE DREAMING” was inspired by the music of Alice Coltrane, also known as Turiyasangitananda.

I’d love to hear from you, K.

“DUTY / DEON” wins the January Arc Award of Awesomeness

children to their curiosity / … / poets to their truth

Thank you shayne avec i grec for choosing my poem “Duty / Deon” as the winner of Arc‘s January prompt, Duty. Just click the link here to read the poem.

This is a thrill to have my writing recognized by Arc Poetry Magazine.

Please like (if you do) and share your thoughts (either way).

K.

Why Write a Chapbook? Plus Red Alders in an Island Dream by Christopher Howell

“What they say is / change / can bring you here.” (“Beyond the Dream Hatch”)

Fellow poet, friend, and blogger, Gwynn Scheltema, has recently written a piece about chapbooks — what they are and why we might consider publishing one. Here’s a short excerpt from Gwynn’s Writescape blog (with permission; thank you Gwynn):

Why publish a chapbook?

  • For the unpublished poet, it’s a chance to get publishing creds.
  • The process will prepare you for putting together a full collection.
  • A chapbook is a “safe” way to publish, because the work is not lost. You can publish it again in your collection.
  • You can take risks with a chapbook – give a chance to a new publisher, publish it yourself, create an artpiece.
  • A chapbook can keep you in the public eye in the time between publishing full poetry collections.
  • You need a home for perfectly good orphan poems that didn’t make it into a collection.

(To read Gwynn’s entire blog on Writescape, just click here: https://writescape.ca/site/2021/02/on-chapbooks/.)

***

This started me thinking about chapbooks slipped between full collections on my poetry shelves and to Red Alders in an Island Dream.

RED ALDERS IN AN ISLAND DREAM

… is an example of a 7-inch square, hand-stitched chapbook by Christopher Howell (Trask House Books, Portland, 1980). It was given to me recently by a friend who gifted it from his library. Howell has now published 11 books of poetry and won three Pushcart prizes among other awards.

This little treasure has been read many times. Just because it is small — home to only seven poems (one is in four parts, which sort of makes it eleven poems) — does not decrease its value. Actually, I like Red Alders in an Island Dream better than many full collections on my shelves. Don’t approach chapbooks in a condescending way. Sometimes the best things come in small packages.

The collection ends with the four-part poem “In Grey Water: The Day,” and these are the last four lines of “IV,” the final lines in Red Alders in an Island Dream:

Membranous and steady, like wind
moving in the darkening neighborhoods,
we seek the far shore. And window light
breaks from us
like the sound of oars.

***

For an interesting interview with Christopher Howell: http://true.proximitymagazine.org/2018/11/08/a-conversation-with-christopher-howell/, or just “Google” Christopher Howell poet.

Thanks for reading to the end. Please share your thoughts and this blog. Kate

“Haibun: of Hunger & Fire” published in Amethyst Review

Thank you, Sarah Law, for accepting my “Haibun: Of Hunger & Fire” for publication in Amethyst Review.

HAIBUN: OF HUNGER & FIRE

A chorus of chick-a-dee-dee-dee greets late winter dawn and spring-hungry us, who clutch mugs of hot coffee against the chill. A flock of chickadees cluster in the barberry bush now doused with snow, their black caps barely visible within the weave of pencil-thin branches. But their bobbing dark heads give them away among last summer’s shrivelled red berries and a few clinging leaves. In groups of five or six, they wing to the feeder and back again, a circus lilting through air, sunflower seeds clasped in their toes. Blue jays, nesting in the evergreens across the way, also wake hungry. They screech a slurring jaay, jaay – whether to intimidate or pre-emptive to mob – I don’t know. The tiny chickadees keep a distance from the raucous bully-blues. You stoke the fire; sparks rise; woodsmoke scents the air.

Snow blankets barberry
Birds jostle for sunflower seeds
Sparks quickly settle

A “haibun” is a Japanese literary term that we can trace back to the poet Matsuo Basho (17th century). Essentially, it is a paragraph-long prose narrative followed by a 17-syllable “haiku.” Haibuns tend to focus on landscape scenes and anecdotes. Style-wise, a haibun is imagistic and captures a moment in time.

I hope that you enjoy this one and that you will leave a comment and share.

“Haibun: Of Hunger & Fire” can be viewed here: https://amethystmagazine.org/2021/02/10/haibun-of-hunger-fire-a-poem-by-kathryn-macdonald/?fbclid=IwAR3h4_NzuMNSsb1Xij6rvQTxIipTfxDCYmHb3k8wQItI4KQT6-_Edu7Dh4Y

Thanks, Kathryn

2 Poems – “Alone” and “Song” published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Does the caged bird sing / of loss…


 “The Meaning of the Blues,” by Christel Roelandt

Alone

Halyards play jazz
snapping rhythm
against sailboat masts.
Floating docks moan.
The sloop rocks.
Me? ….Hollow in the shadow
of angry words flung I hum
a sad Billie Holiday song.

.

Song

Does the caged bird sing
of loss
of sunshine and breezes
of light
of green shadows scented with blossoms
a lilting ballad Billie Holiday blue
a yellow memory?

“Alone” and “Song” can be viewed here: https://jerryjazzmusician.com/2020/12/two-poems-by-kathryn-macdonald/

Quarantine Wishes by Kathryn MacDonald

Thank you Between Festivals: A Journal in Time of Pandemic and Lockdown for publishing “Quarantine Wishes.”

Photo by Carol Nemeth

QUARANTINE WISHES

black heads bobbing     chicka-dee-dee-dee
among winter-shrivelled barberries

goldfinches’ ti-dee-di-di     music
lilting like waves through air

plump mourning doves in pairs
singing their sad ooahoo oo oo oo

congregations of ducks     quack-ing
a family of swans silently swimming

fish in the river
and heron along the shore

turtles floating on logs
even a snake or two

children on bicycles
parents jogging along

seniors slowly strolling
young lovers embracing

our hearts want spring
and ordinary things

parks and trails
rivers and bays
the earth renewed
with grass and flowers

blue sky
corona-free

***

To view the poem on Between Festivals: A Journal in Time of Pandemic and Lockdown: https://festivalofthearts.ca/2020/11/27/quarantine-wishes-by-kathryn-macdonald/

I chose the photograph, above, by Carol Nemeth because it illustrates a coterminous moment of trust and serenity, a connection between wild chickadee and a person, a precious moment. Thank you Carol.

Please leave a note and also share. Thanks.

“Shadows,” by Kathryn MacDonald, a poem

Wear Dali’s time-melting /
watch

SHADOWS

When you slip    down
     go deep.

Wear Dali’s time-melting
watch     curl into dream

beyond shallow façades
     dig within night’s folds
the moon’s secrets

where phantom fingers journey
over skin     lips caress     until
encircled     two melt
lost until dawn

                           when light
routs shadows     and time
shoots through your chest.

***

Visit the site for a gallery of paintings, photographs and poetry: https://spiritofthehills.org/expanding-and-evolving/

Please leave a message and share. Thanks, K.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD POEM?

What to look for when reading and what to aim for when writing:

This is the briefest of summaries, mere definitions of key elements in poems. It might be a good exercise to play with each one and then try combining them as your skill develops.

  1. Details: naming; seeing, hearing – all the senses; every word working and, conversely, subtlety: a balance of specific and mystery / known and unknowable / sayable and unsayable. Is the monarch butterfly pinned to a board or does it fly free?

  2. Engagement: poet’s presence, not only intellectually (ideas/abstractions/metaphors), but physical presence/immediacy; an invitation to readers to enter the poem, to be stirred, to connect.

  3. Intimacy: the voice of the poet comes through; expressive words, perspective, insight – the surface narrative/lyric, but something written between the lines that speaks in the poet’s voice but that also touches me unearthing something that connects us (something beyond personal/universal/ah ha moment).

  4. Movement: outward and inward.

  5. Portal: the word, phrase, or stanza that shifts the poem from the surface theme into the deeper, more subtle one, the poem written between the lines.

  6. Sound and rhythm: music; echoes in the language.

  7. Twist: surprise, but also coherence, and subtlety: room for the unknown/unknowable.

  8. Question: I want insight, but not a definitive answer (not overly generalized; respect for the individual); I want to be left with something to think about beyond the poet’s skill with structure and words, rhythm and other “tools” in the writer’s toolbox.

  9. Wow factor: awe moment; not just by poet’s craft/skill/talent, but by the mind and heart of the poet.

Every poem does not have all of these things, but they are what I look for when reading and what I aim for when writing.

You may also be interested in reading How to Write a Good Poem? 6 Writing Tips. The blog looks at the advice of Jane Hirshfield, Robyn Sarah and Tony Hoagland. For more tips scroll through the category “Writing Tips & Workshops.”

Please share your thoughts and share this post. Thanks,
Kathryn

Continue reading “WHAT MAKES A GOOD POEM?”

“Honey Light” by Kathryn MacDonald in Amethyst Review

Notice her concentration /
how she stands on stilty legs /

Thank you, Sarah Law, editor of Amethyst Review, for selecting Honey Light for publication (August 8, 2020).

HONEY LIGHT

When you wake in honey light
linger where river meets the curve
of a bay round as a waxing moon
where the pearl-feathered heron
glides with outstretched wings
alights in weedy shallows
to become just another shadowed reed
perfectly still in solitude.

Notice her concentration
how she stands on stilty legs
in harmony with time and place
like the pause between piano notes
the space that makes the music
…..the downward pause of Billie Holiday
…..Cohen’s gap that lets the light come in
stands alert and dreamy at water’s edge.

Do not rush through the honey light
but flow in the effortless action
and inaction of night becoming day
of the moon’s light giving way to the sun
and the sun’s rising and sinking
into the ebb and flow of the sea
step into the shallows
stand in wu wei.….a heron-woman.

Heron-Moira 2019-05-12 #20 sm.jpg (1 of 1) (3).

Please “like,” share and send your thoughts on the poem. Thanks.

Tartan Lament: a poem by Kathryn MacDonald

conjure embraces / your laughter kissing my ears / as we sway to a Coltrane tune.

Thank you, David Jordan, for selecting “Tartan Lament” for inclusion in the June 2020 (#10) issue of Crossways Literary Magazine (Cork, Ireland).

Crossways Cover #10 June 2020

Tartan Lament

Your grandmother’s armchair
cloaked in wine tartan
sits dappled in sunshine.

The cactus you bestowed years ago
blossoms     its paper-thin petals
fragile as a grieving heart

its prickly spines set to pierce
unwary fingers     warding off
touch as I twist a golden band

conjure embraces
your laughter kissing my ears
as we sway to a Coltrane tune.

Curled in the chair’s embrace
another mid-May day settles
with its abundance of lilac

blossoms like those draping
the mantle behind us
as you gifted
your tartan name.

 

I’d love to learn your thoughts about this poem, the way it addresses the theme and the way it closes. Please leave a note…and share. Thanks.